Christian seminaries are giving courses that feature prominent members of the Black Lives Matter movement as instructors. The multicultural New York Theological Seminary in New York City is among seminaries that have offered classes on the leftist movement, while the prestigious Yale Divinity School offered a one-credit class taught by leftist activist Deray McKesson on leadership in the Black Lives Movement. Both Christian and Muslim clergy and professors have gotten involved in addressing concerns about crime and police responses.
Starting in September, a course at New York Theological Seminary -- a nondenominational institution -- has addressed issues such as “white privilege,” mass incarceration, police, and slavery. Students of the course attended a meeting at a New York City church that celebrated the three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. New York churches that have been involved in the courses and the movement include All Souls Unitarian Church. Most of the 22 students in the course are black, and include both Christians and Muslims. Some of them are ministers in their congregations, while others are former convicts. A co-teacher of the course, Rev. C. Vernon Mason said, according to Religion News Service, that the electoral victory of Donald Trump makes the course all the more relevant.
Mason said of the first meeting after Trump’s victory, “It was almost like a class of lamentations,” and added, “Everybody had those expressions, but then part of the class response also was, ‘What actions do you plan to take as a result of this election’” He said that an objective of the course is to immerse his students in the Black Lives Matter movement so as to address the relative “disconnect” of the “faith community generally” in the movement when compared to the involvement of majority black churches in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
In 2015, leaders of black American theological faculties called for colleagues to “arise from the embers of silence and speak up and speak out … as African-American men and women are slain in the streets of Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland and beyond.” Officials of United Methodist institutions were among those who responded.
Rev. James Lawson, who once trained activists in the 1960s, founded the Nashville local chapter of Black Lives Matter, and is training students today in activism.
Among other institutions involved is Morehouse School of Religion, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Interdenominational Theological Center, and Wesley Theological Seminary.
The Rev. Joseph Evans, dean of the predominantly black Morehouse School of Religion, called on seminaries that are mostly white or have white leadership to treat black people with dignity. “There are a lot of young people speaking out on Black Lives Matter that may or may not have a church affiliation whatsoever yet they have figured out that the human body matters,” said Evans. “So seminaries need to be really in front of this, not behind it, leading the way.” Moreover, according to the report, leaders of black theological schools are calling on majority white schools to have black deans and scholars.